Harley Quinn Episode 13 Review: The Final Joke

Harley Quinn reverts back to her (and the show's) worst tendencies in "The Final Joke."

This Harley Quinn review contains spoilers.

Harley Quinn Episode 13

There really couldn’t have been a more appropriate title for the final episode of Harley Quinn. After three months of solid humor, violence, and appropriately foul-mouthed jokes, the season came to a rather disappointing end as Harley Quinn (temporarily) fridged Poison Ivy, killing off one of the best parts of the animated adult series as well as cutting off any potential closure around the relationship at the heart of the show at the proverbial roots.

Since the very first episode, Harley (Kaley Cuoco) and Ivy (Lake Bell) have been the best thing about the DC Universe series. That’s not a bias but simply because it was built into the core of what the show was about: Harley emancipating herself from the Joker (Alan Tudyk) with the help of her best friend who lest we not forget was the only reason Harley ever managed to get out of Arkham.

Seemingly killing her in the penultimate episode was a mistake as it means that we spend most of “The Final Joke” with Harley bouncing around Gotham with nothing to ground her but the most boring of the superheroes, Kite Man (Matt Oberg), and no sarcastic but stoic Ivy which means no sensible best friend to dissuade her from her more outlandish tendencies.

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Instead, we basically end up back where we began with Harley once again trying to escape the Joker who is once again in love with her. The show goes so far as to force Harley to return to wearing her classic Harley Quinn costume which we first saw in Batman: The Animated Series. It’s a very basic analogy for the power that Joker has over Harley but there’s still a couple of twists to enjoy as apparently all it took for Harley to realize that the Joker was a dick was him killing her best friend.

In another misguided moment the Joker decides he wants to erase Harley’s Harleyness, but guess what… Ivy isn’t really dead. So any emotional pathos the episode did have–for people who were moved by Ivy’s death–is lost, whilst it also feels like a cheap recovery for what would have likely been a highly criticized move.

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Prior to this we learn that things in Gotham have been in chaos, with the Joker ruling the city from a giant tower… Why couldn’t Batman stop him? Why was he suddenly all powerful? It’s unclear and feels like a weirdly unceremonious big bad setup for the finale. However, that makes sense when you consider that one of the show’s biggest strengths and weaknesses has always been its obsession with Harley and the Joker. Even when trying to be her own person the show has always been most interested in how his presence or lack of it affects the titular heroine. Maybe it’s silly to be disappointed that a self-admittedly edgy take on a character ended up running out of steam before the finishing line, but for a series that felt like it had so much promise the finale of Harley Quinn truly feels lacking.

Some bright sparks were the few scenes we got with Harley, Batman, and the Joker which felt more like the early heyday of the series. But even those were cut short for maniacal bits about the Joker torturing Harley’s crew and the Dark Knight whilst the heroine cried over her dead “Friend” and hid from her ex’s wrath. One of the biggest issues with this episode is–until the last 30 seconds which upends everything and sets up a potential season two in a last minute twist–that nothing really changes.

There is no emotional arc, we’re back where we were before Ivy died and was reborn, and the big twist we do get really has nothing to do with the events of the episode. Essentially, Gotham is decimated by an earthquake and Batman is nowhere to be seen, hinting at a potential Mad Max inspired season two… if the show gets one.

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At the end of the day, there’s moments of “The Final Joke” which act as a pretty funny episode of Joker and the Batman, but honestly as fun as that potential show could be it’s really not what the final episode of a Harley Quinn show should be about. After a really solid season it’s a shame that the final entry in the show feels like a letdown that really loses the tension, energy, and momentum that the last 12 episodes built up. One highlight is that wild ending, though. If the show does get picked up for another season, despite our feelings about this episode we’d be open to seeing Harley rule the devastation of the Gotham that no longer exists.

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